We explore ferroelectric properties of cleaved 2-D flakes of copper indium thiophosphate, CuInP2S6 (CITP), and probe size effects along with limits of ferroelectric phase stability, by ambient and ultra high vacuum scanning probe microscopy. CITP belongs to the only material family known to display ferroelectric polarization in a van der Waals, layered crystal at room temperature and above. Our measurements directly reveal stable, ferroelectric polarization as evidenced by domain structures, switchable polarization, and hysteresis loops. We found that at room temperature the domain structure of flakes thicker than 100 nm is similar to the cleaved bulk surfaces, whereas below 50 nm polarization disappears. We ascribe this behavior to a well-known instability of polarization due to depolarization field. Furthermore, polarization switching at high bias is also associated with ionic mobility, as evidenced both by macroscopic measurements and by formation of surface damage under the tip at a bias of 4 V-likely due to copper reduction. Mobile Cu ions may therefore also contribute to internal screening mechanisms. The existence of stable polarization in a van-der-Waals crystal naturally points toward new strategies for ultimate scaling of polar materials, quasi-2D, and single-layer materials with advanced and nonlinear dielectric properties that are presently not found in any members of the growing "graphene family".
Keywords: 2D crystals; Atomic force microscopy; ferroelectricity; layered materials.